Re-thinking stereotypes: Capturing the third gender through a lens

Published: August 16, 2012
Madam Shama poses with a colourful hat. PHOTO: HASHIM BIN RASHID/EXPRESS

Madam Shama poses with a colourful hat. PHOTO: HASHIM BIN RASHID/EXPRESS


Capturing transgenders with a camera was a challenge for me as much as the participants, Danial Shah, a freelance photographer and travel writer, told The Express Tribune.

A photography workshop dedicated to photographing transgenders concluded at the Punjab Lok Rahs on Wednesday.

There were around 20 participants. Danial Shah, conducted the workshop that started on August 12.

“We are told that transgenders, or Khwaja Siras, are not from amongst us and that they are not good people. The workshop allowed me to change my own mindset,” he said.

“I first interacted with Lok Rahs when I attended the first photography workshop in Multan in 2010,” he said. “It was there that I began to think that taking a photograph was not enough. The photographs have to have a meaning.”

“I started exploring how to challenge Pakthun stereotypes of Punjabis, Sindhi stereotypes of Mohajirs and so on,” he said.

“I hope the people who attended this workshop have found a way to change mindsets,” Shah said, “It is not just about depicting transgendered people. If they have learnt to depict the truth as they see, we have been successful.”

Sobia Zaidi, an actor and director with Lok Rahs, said, “We began photography workshops in 2010 to complement our theatre work.”

Theatre requires a lot of time and commitment. There are always lots of young people around taking pictures. It would be nice if they could produce meaningful photographs,” she said.

“Our first workshop was titled Celebrating Multiculturalism in Pakistan,” she said.

“We began working with transgender activist Dr Sarah Gill last year. This year, we decided to link learning about transgenders and photography.”

Gill, running an NGO by the name of Gender Interactive Alliance, also led a discussion with the participants on Monday before they visited khwaja siras living inside Taxali Gate on Tuesday.

Maryam Azhar, a student at FC college, said she had joined the workshop to interact with other photographers.

“It was interesting to see how people explore the same subject from various perspectives,” she said.

Atif Saeed, a student at Superior University, said he had returned from Kuwait eight years ago. He said he “never saw a third gender there.”

“In Pakistan, people told me one must guard against their curse. They also said they are not in the society’s mainstream and that their role is limited to song and dance,” he said. He said the workshop had allowed him to interact with them.

“I met their guru and he told me that a transgendered person was someone with ‘the soul of a woman trapped in a man’s body’,” he said.

Sobia Zaidi said: “I had believed they have no choice in what they do. Actually, many of them are proud to be who they are.”

She said many of them had chosen to dance. “It is a choice that must be respected,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Akshay, India
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:00AM

    Nice effort :)


  • Mullah laptop.
    Aug 16, 2012 - 3:10PM

    Capturing the third gender through a lens? Recommend

  • Saladin Chamchawalla
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:50PM

    “Third Gender” is a misnomer.
    Anatomically and physiologically they are males and 99.9% will have 46+XY karyotype. Just take a mouth swab or or a drop of blood and check it out!

    They may be transgender or transsexual with wide range of sexual preferences ranging from heterosexual to pedophilia with every other preference in between.
    They have been peddled as male prostitutes for centuries.
    They don’t have any special spiritual powers but become “husslers” because they operate as a mob.
    My guess is ET would not publish this comment because it may remove some “mistique” and curiosity.


  • Saladin Chamchawalla
    Aug 16, 2012 - 6:54PM

    Karyotype would be 44+XY.


  • Sonia
    Aug 16, 2012 - 11:42PM

    @Saladin Chamchawalla:

    If they are males anatomically- y do they have such different psychology? y the ‘third gender’ qualities- I am assuming u r a doctor!?!?!?!?!


  • Jay
    Aug 17, 2012 - 1:55PM

    Transgenders are very great friends, sweet – loving – caring –
    I love them and the above in Photo is really great, so beautiful. Wish i can see her in Real.

    Bkk TH


  • Jay
    Aug 17, 2012 - 4:14PM

    @Jay: They are too much caring then a girl, i love you guys especially transgenders, always [email protected]@@@@@@@@


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